South Carolina’s federal delegation is united on at least one issue.
Aside from Governor Mark Sanford’s position on the stimulus money, the topic which took most of the time during Tuesday night’s State Chamber of Commerce annual Washington Night symposium was the state’s energy needs, and nuclear power was evidently the star of the show. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a democrat, apparently surprised most of the delegation by announcing his pro-nuclear position. He also received a large applause from much of the audience.
“We cannot have an efficient, effective, productive energy program unless nuclear is in the mix. It’s got to be there.” Clyburn, who was a leading endorsement behind the Obama campaign, said his disagreement with the Obama administration over the nuclear issue didn’t bother him.
Clyburn said that he had no desire to support the “cap and trade” legislation which in previous years was a popular proposal, also known as emissions trading. The system has economic incentives and would limit or “cap” the amount of pollutants that coal-fired plants and other industries could produce, but would allow industries to trade emission credits if they had performed well to control pollution, in effect taxing polluting companies. Certain other countries already have cap and trade systems.
Senator Lindsey Graham said that cap and trade could work to help clean up pollution, and would be fair to business, but only under the right system. He said an appropriate cap and trade system could help to reduce the pollution produced by China and India.
But Graham added that nuclear power would create more jobs for the state. He said that 70 percent of non-carbon energy generation in the U.S. is nuclear. And Graham said it’s time for South Carolina to get into the re-processing of spent nuclear fuel. “I went to the Japanese re-processing facility. They’ve been reprocessing spent fuel for 30 years over there. The French do it. I want to work with Jim Clyburn and our delegation to bring reprocessing to South Carolina. I want to demonstrate to the country and to the world that we can reprocess spent fuel, and lets do it at Savannah River Site.”
Graham said that global climate change, which much of the scientific community says is worstened by pollution from fossil fuels, is actually an opportunity to become independent from foreign oil, clean up the planet and create jobs, all at the same time.
Upstate congressman Bob Inglis said that moving to nuclear power is a great idea, but he pointed out that it’s more expensive than coal-fired power. That expense, said Inglis, is holding it back. The Republican from Travelers Rest, a summa cum laude graduate of Duke University, said that the current cap and trade proposal would not clean up the environment, but that a pollution-control capping proposal that his science committee is working on would. “Goods exported from the United States would be able to remove the carbon tax on exports, like in a value-added tax, and then goods coming in would be subjected to the tax, so that you eliminate the competitive advantage that China and India would have, because their goods coming in would in fact be subject to the same thing that American manufacturers face.”
Second district congressman Joe Wilson said that South Carolina has a pro-nuclear history. “We’ve had nearly 55 years of positive experience working with nuclear capabilities. And then our state, for over 30 years, more than 50 percent of the power provided here has been nuclear power. We’re second in the nation. People of South Carolina are not that familiar with that. The level of safety has been so good, and the improvements in safety have been so good, that we need to proceed, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to that end.”